IDEABOOST Accelerator’s Cohort 8 Kicks Off at CFC
By Nataly De Monte ● April 17, 2019 10:30
On Thursday, April 11 and Friday, April 12 at the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), IDEABOOST mentors, lead guides, and CFC Media Lab staff gathered to meet the seven startups in the IDEABOOST Accelerator’s Cohort 8. The two-day intensive kicked off the first of four meetings, or “sprints,” this spring between the companies and industry experts who can diagnose each company’s business needs from every conceivable angle. Their primary goal for this first sprint? Discovering each company’s long- and short-term business objectives and setting achievable goals for their experience in the Accelerator.
Startup founders are laser-focused on getting people’s buy-in. That means having their guard up the majority of the time and being able to answer difficult questions with confidence.
For the start of this first sprint, “we need to break through that wall and get a look ‘under the hood,’” says Aaron Williamson, Program Director for IDEABOOST. “It’s about building a braintrust with experts in the field and creating a safe space for founders to be able to share openly” – a critical first step in the Accelerator journey.
Time is the single most scarce commodity in the life of a startup founder. It’s why some strategic steps get glossed over or put on the back burner; all efforts are turned to more pressing matters at hand, such as raising funds or customer acquisition.
Taking part in the Accelerator “means giving yourself permission to step back and gain a broader perspective, allowing an overall business strategy to take shape,” Williamson adds. Much of this first sprint is geared towards backtracking, redefining primary objectives, and reexamining the product-market fit – not always easy when you’re about to scale.
“Spending enough time immersed in the problem-space is key,” states Kate Collins, a product-market fit consultant and IDEABOOST mentor. “That’s why the three practices of truly lean prototyping, continuous user dialogue, and testing for scale early are powerful. Together they offer a strong antidote to falling in love with your own ideas too early.”
The two days’ programmed modules are designed to uncover the baseline for each company. That’s when the hard work of defining a core business strategy, revenue modelling, pitch coaching, branding and more, begins.
IDEABOOST mentor and lead guide Anne Marie Maduri of Maduri and Associates has deep experience in working with startups on their financial strategy, “What they need most right now is clarifying a sustainable, strategic business model,” she notes. “The financing plan will follow from that. I work with the founders to distill their business down to its fundamental, strategic drivers - build on those and quantify the outcomes, and then it becomes an iterative process from there.”
Cohort 8’s companies are at a slightly later stage and therefore more willing to accept the help. “It takes grit and commitment,” explains Maduri. “There are lots of moving pieces to manage and optimize at once.” The fact that these founders are willing to integrate the learnings bodes well for their future successes.
Feeling the Burn
“It’s a lot of new information intake and I'm struggling to process it all right now," says Erik Peterson, Origami XR founder. "I need time to rest and digest everything we just heard.” It’s a sentiment shared by his colleagues, who have just gone through a series of rigorous, hyper-focused work sessions.
These feelings illustrate the effort and sheer brain power put in over the two-day sprint. It’s difficult to undergo this level of scrutiny by various industry experts while still running a viable business, but it’s necessary in order to set the right growth trajectory.
“What impresses me the most about Cohort 8 is the level of commitment,” observes Ana Serrano, IDEABOOST’s managing director, “We’ve been able to dive right in with this group, getting beneath the surface and working directly on a variety of topics like investor strategies, growth campaigns, and even ethical considerations for unintended consequences.”
Overall, the lasting effects of this first two-day sprint have established a strong foundation for the next three to come, and sketch an encouraging prognosis for all seven companies involved. We look forward to seeing where they go from here.
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All photos by Brian de Rivera Simon